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NRS Founder Bill Parks

Bill (William H.) Parks: Educator, Entrepreneur, and Business Professional

Bill H. ParksBill was born July 15, 1934 and grew up in South Bend, Indiana, home of the Studebaker Corporation. His grandfather, a sales training executive with Studebaker, spent a lot of time with Bill and was a strong early influence and mentor. Many of the things Bill learned from his grandfather about marketing, personnel management, honesty and integrity in business became touchstones when he went into business for himself.

After high school Bill worked in a production bakery before enrolling at Michigan State College (now Michigan State University). He interrupted his undergraduate studies with a two-year stint in the U.S. Army. After his discharge, he returned to school and eventually graduated with a B.A. in Business. When he ran out of funds for school, he left his Masters program and spent a couple of years working for the Cadillac Division of General Motors in Detroit. After returning to Michigan State, he completed his master’s degree in Finance and a Ph.D. in Finance and Economics.

Bill accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Oregon in Eugene in 1965, teaching courses in corporate finance, financial institutions and investments. While at U.O., he recalled an experience he’d had in graduate school. Following a talk Bill’s major professor had given to a group of business professionals, one of the attendees had remarked, “He may know his theory, but you can tell he’s never met a payroll!” This motivated Bill to see if he could actually apply abstract principles from business theory in the real world. He had become an avid fan of whitewater rafting and kayaking, and gear for these sports was still very hard to come by. So, with $2,000 in initial capital, he started Northwest River Supplies, Inc. (NRS) in 1972.

After founding NRS, Bill moved to Moscow, Idaho to join the faculty at the University of Idaho in the College of Business and Economics. He continued to nurture and build the business while teaching fulltime, often hiring students from his classes to inventory, pack and ship products to customers.

Today NRS is a multi-million-dollar company with hundreds of dealers in the U.S. and around the world. It is one of the major manufacturers and distributors of boats, apparel and accessories in the paddlesports industry. NRS employs over 130 people, and has over 90,000 square feet of office, manufacturing and warehouse space in Moscow, Idaho, and a boat manufacturing facility in Mexico. Through the years Bill has stayed true to the inspirations he received early in his career from his grandfather and other mentors to “build the kind of company that I would like to do business with.” In 2012, NRS is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Bill is now retired from teaching. He devotes his time to NRS (now 100% employee owned), to advocating for the paddlesports industry, and to sharing his insights on business and finance, both academic and practical.